City of Redding Podcast breaks down big topics and builds trust
Kimberly Bonéy is the copywriter for the city of Redding’s Communications Team. To learn more about the City of Redding Podcast, email Katie Hunter or Steve DiPaolo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s easy for community members to mistrust local government when they are not privy to the day-to-day happenings within city hall. The wheels of government turn slowly, and delivering information is a multilayered process. Governmental documents and communications can be jargon-heavy and hard to understand. People often draw inaccurate conclusions without a clear vision of what’s happening within their community.
In 2019, the city of Redding created a Communications Team to help bring the public into many of the city’s most critical decision-making processes, as well as streamline and amplify emergency communications. The goal was to increase transparency by providing consistent information to people in clear, understandable, relatable language on platforms they were already using.
Press releases, newsletters, direct mailers, and social media are valuable, but many city-related issues are intricate and layered. The Communications Team knew finding another way to keep people informed was critical.
“Between the quick turnover of news stories and community members who may not have time to read a full story, the nuances of city decisions can often be lost in communication,” said Katie Hunter, the city’s communications manager. “While we fully support and work with our local media outlets, for those in our community interested in diving deeper into how and why city decisions are made, we wanted to find a way to discuss the details with the experts.”
Enter the City of Redding Podcast. When it first launched in 2020, there were few other city-based podcasts. Using a paid Zoom account and inexpensive Blue Yeti microphones, Hunter and Steve DiPaolo, the city’s senior marketing specialist, have recorded nearly 130 episodes. Over the years, they’ve streamlined the editing process using emerging technology and employed an online transcription service to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
“As avid podcast listeners, we saw a city-based podcast as an area of untapped potential,” DiPaolo said. “Podcasts don’t require you to sit down and read. They allow people to learn what’s happening while they are in the car, gardening, or walking along the river trail.”
No topic is too big or mundane. The duo has chatted with the local, regional, and state officials about wildfire prevention, mitigation, and preparedness; drought restrictions and water conservation methods; and the state’s organic waste law. They have discussed heavy-hitting community issues like public safety and the housing crisis. The podcast also provides bimonthly recaps of Redding City Council meetings for community members who want a high-level overview of the topics up for discussion.
The City of Redding Podcast focuses on breaking down big topics — like the city budget — into more consumable pieces. Most community members don’t have the time or energy to read a 300-page finance document, but it doesn’t mean the budget isn’t a top concern to them. Hunter and DiPaolo asked community members to submit questions on social media for a budget episode with Redding City Manager Barry Tippin and Director of Finance Greg Robinett. Tippin and Robinett shared key information about the budget in plain terms, making information that might otherwise remain buried in charts and graphs easy to understand.
“In today’s world of social media and misinformation, there is something powerful about hearing a person’s voice,” Tippin said. “It helps to humanize subjects that some community members may feel disconnected from. While community members may not agree with the decision or the process, hearing the why behind it from an expert on the subject helps ensure they are more informed.”
With over 27,000 downloads since the podcast began, it’s clear that the community is using this new communications tool. According to Pew Research, nearly two-thirds of podcast listeners are under 50. Recent data from Forbes, among others, suggests that podcast consumers listen to at least 80% of each episode.
A city-based podcast helps engage younger community members and welcomes them into key conversations for longer. That’s a win for cities like Redding seeking higher engagement in public discussions from community members from all walks of life.
The City of Redding Podcast is not a stand-alone tool. It complements the city’s robust social media presence, regular press releases, a monthly newsletter and department highlight, and radio and television communications.
“We utilize the podcast across multiple communication platforms, often responding to comments on our social media channels with a link to a recorded episode,” says DiPaolo. “It’s a great way to give someone all the information they need to make informed decisions about a policy or public issue.”
As many cities throughout California know, it takes a multilevel communications strategy to connect with the public effectively. Appealing to a community of over 90,000 people requires recognizing that everyone consumes information differently and finding a way to meet them where they are. Podcasts are another way of leveraging technology and affordable online solutions to amplify city messages to the people they impact most.
“Three years later, we’re still learning, but we’ve found an approachable, expert-driven way of sharing information community members want and need,” Hunter said. “I learn something new every time we interview someone for the podcast, and if I’m learning something new as someone who works for the city of Redding, I know there is real value in this information for the community.”